Some Ohio County residents are upset after the Wheeling-Ohio Board of Education voted to reduce funding for the county’s public library by one-third.
The decision to reallocate funding for the library was handed down during a board meeting last month. It voted to reduce funding from 3 cents to 2 cents per $100 of the institution’s assessed property value, according to the Wheeling Intelligencer. The board plans to use the money that would have gone to the library to fund property improvements within the county.
Supporters and staff members of the library system think this decision is ill-advised. Library President Dottie Thomas says it would mean a cut in the services and programs the library currently provides. She is concerned about upkeep on the building itself.
“It allows no room to maintain the building at all, or any capital improvements, or repairs, or all of that, which, of course, is very expensive,” said Thomas.
Those opposed to the decision also include notable names like West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman, who decried the Board’s decision as “shameful,” and former President of West Liberty University Clyde Campbell.
The Wheeling Intelligencer reports that the Ohio County Board of Education will re-evaluate its financial standing next year to decide funding levels for the library. Thomas says that without any state law requiring the funding of libraries locally, it would be difficult to encourage future funding.
“West Virginia made two mistakes,” said Thomas. “One: It never put in place any type of requirement for local government funding of libraries in the state code. And two, it has a very ineffective way of encouraging that funding. Some states do a much better job with local library funding.”
Though the defunding of the Ohio Valley Public Library is worrisome to Thomas, she thinks the institutions have a place in local communities all around the state.
“Do I believe public libraries are still relevant?” Thomas asked. “Absolutely. They provide the internet, of course, and all these services to all people, regardless of their economic status. It’s the taxpayers providing their community with a service that allows the local citizens to educate themselves and be well-informed.”